Hello everyone and happy St. Nicholas Day! Welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss recent resignation of a New York lawyer after she was charged with forging judge’s signatures on multiple witness subpoenas. The case is Matter of Theresa Lizio, 2012 NY Slip Op. 08240 (11/29/12). The opinion is online at: https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/appellate-division-first-department/2012/4177.html
According to the opinion, the lawyer, who was employed by the New York City Department of Probation, appeared at a probation violation hearing on April 10, 2012 in the Brooklyn Supreme Court on behalf of the Department of Probation as the assigned attorney. Two representatives of drug treatment programs appeared pursuant to subpoenas that they had received and questioned the validity of the subpoenas, which were purportedly signed by Supreme Court Judge Michael Brennan.
Supreme Court Judge Vincent Del Guidice (great name!) was presiding over the matter in Judge Brennan’s absence and “took possession of the subpoenas for further investigation”. The City of New York Department of Investigation conducted an investigation and referred the matter to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office for potential criminal charges against the lawyer. In exchange for a “non-criminal plea offer”, the lawyer agreed to resign from the practice of law in the State of New York.
The lawyer then filed an affidavit of resignation from the practice of law admitting that she improperly prepared the two subpoenas by signing Judge Brennan’s signature on one and printing his name on the other without that judge’s permission or authority. The lawyer also admitted that she improperly issued judicial subpoenas in three other matters by printing the judges’ names without their permission or authority. The lawyer admitted that she printed Judge Brennan’s name on the signature line on two subpoenas and she typed in Judge Matthew J. D’Emic’s name on the signature line in a third subpoena. In her affidavit, the lawyer “acknowledges that if the Committee brought charges against her for the misconduct under investigation, she could not successfully defend herself on the merits.”
The opinion accepted the lawyer’s resignation and struck her name from the “roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law in the State of New York, nunc pro tunc to August 16, 2012.”
Bottom line: In Florida, lawyers can sign their own subpoenas most of the time; however, signing or printing a judge’s name to any court document without permission is always the wrong thing to do…what was this lawyer thinking?
Be careful out there!
Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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Clearwater, Florida 33759
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